Star Wars: The Force Awakens ★★★★½

Well, as it turns out, the Force is with us. Ten years after the release of the previous film in the series, "Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith" (2005), the franchise comes to life again with plenty of new energy. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is a stellar cinematic experience, delivering 135 minutes of action, adventure, and entertainment with a nostalgic tinge.

Thirty years have passed since the Empire was defeated. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared, and a new threat has arisen from the ashes of the Empire: the First Order. A galactic map that may reveal the whereabouts of Luke plays an important part in the story, as both the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and the First Order are looking for it. Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger, rescues BB-8, the droid carrying the map in question, and consequently finds herself in danger. She soon crosses paths with and befriends Finn (John Boyega), a former stormtrooper who has deserted and helped Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) to escape from the First Order. Together with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Rey and Finn eventually become key players in an attempt to prevent the First Order from ruling the galaxy; a mission that involves destroying Starkiller Base, a superweapon reminiscent of an upgraded Death Star.

Does that sound familiar? Co-writer/director J.J. Abrams and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt recycle a few too many plot elements and story beats from the preceding films for my liking. However, that is also my only major gripe with "Star Wars: The Force Awakens".

Another big-budget movie with a strong female protagonist in which the fact that there is a strong female protagonist isn’t made into a big deal means another reason to cheer. Daisy Ridley has the requisite screen presence and embodies the distinctive qualities of Rey with unwavering confidence.

Making a stormtrooper with a conscience one of the protagonists is an interesting approach taken by the filmmakers. It adds an extra layer to the proceedings. And John Boyega is effortlessly likable in the role.

A review of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" that doesn’t mention Adam Driver wouldn’t be a proper review. Driver may not seem to be an obvious choice for the part of the main antagonist in any movie, but his powerful, nuanced turn here as the conflicted and not thoroughly evil Kylo Ren impressed me and should silence the naysayers quite effectively.

It is clear that the film is the first step in establishing a new generation of heroes (and villains), with the old heroes passing the torch to these new protagonists. The time for a generational shift has undoubtedly come, and Abrams lets it happen in a nice, narratively sound way.

The action sequences and set pieces are appropriately spectacular and very exciting. Moreover, the visual and special effects are impeccable. John Williams’s wonderful music provides the icing on the cake.

So how’s the 3D, then? Really good, I would say. The added sense of depth makes a positive contribution to an already excellent piece of entertainment, and fans of the format won’t be disappointed.

My favorite scene in the film is not one of the thrilling aerial or space battles, nor is it a skillfully choreographed lightsaber duel. No, the best scene is a relatively small moment between Rey and Kylo Ren as they engage in an almost overwhelmingly intense battle of the minds.

Rivaling the overall enjoyment of the original trilogy in the franchise, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is definitely a worthy addition to the series. The movie promises great things for the future and has made me feel genuinely invested in "Star Wars" again.